By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Once when movie-goers start watching one movie set in the Marvel Comics Cinematic Universe, they will have to see the rest. There`s no denying that fact. In each film, there are little details being offered either before, during or after the credits roll to tease at what is to come. Sometimes a few details are unimportant, like Tony Stark getting psychoanalyzed by Bruce Banner or seeing the team eat shawarma, but only the astute will know that the bonus material that the early films offered were made to build up to The Avengers.
For another set of post-credits scenes, namely what’s seen in Thor: The First Avenger, Avengers, The Amazing Spider Man 2 and X-Men: Days of Future Past, the tease is made lead into the Infinity Gauntlet storyline. Guardians of the Galaxy further defines this grander story arc by being a milestone product. Although this tale stands alone very well, all things considered, as a singular product, not everyone is going to understand how important one of the characters, The Collector, is unless they have seen Thor: Dark World or read the original mini-series to which Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is taking from. But it should be noted that most of these films are based on the current run than the 80’s material. Even without this extra knowledge, Guardians is a fun film with lots of grandiose silliness to entrench it as part of this Marvel Comics brand. It’s comic book style kinetics and narrative compares favourably against the Avengers movie, and perhaps the two super-groups will meet after one team deals with Ultron next year.
But to see them really team up will depend on who has the bigger ego — Tony Stark or Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) aka Starlord — with the willingness to lead. Both have their similar charming traits and eagerness to play with the ladies. Unlike Stark who is self absorbed, Quill is simply trying to survive in an intergalactic frontier after being abducted from Earth with no particular reason. He was going to be food fodder for the aliens who found him running away from a hospital and away from his dying mother — to which no body else from the not so far hospital noticed from their windows. By being thrust into a larger world as a kid, he had to learn how to fend for himself fast. That includes being able to take orders from Yondu (Michael Rooker), the leader of this space-faring gang of pirates. He is on the run from these mongers after stealing an orb of untold mystical power from under their noses. He was sent in to be their “scout.”
However, there are other parties interested in this spherical container. The item is likened to that of the Ark of the Covenant or The Maltese Falcon to give audiences a sense of what its worth. When a good portion of the film is a cat and mouse game with mighty soldiers wishing to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, that’s whom this film’s primary villain Ronan (Lee Pace) everyone has to fear. He is a Kree warlord intent on running his own separatist movement. But when he serves a greater threat, Thanos (voiced by Josh Brolin) who wishes to possess it, this particular plot point is being left wide open for other filmmakers to address in future films.
Movie goers familiar with the Marvel Comic Book Universe may well wonder if the Chitauri-Kree war is raging and if any film will address it. In the comic books, Thanos is a brilliant tactician who leads the Chitauri race. He may well be manipulating the events that includes toying with Loki to get the gems in order to turn the tides of war. But with very little exposition from The Other, Thanos servant, only fans can speculate over what the greater story arc is going to be about.
Eventually, one of the new films being made will have to address this threat. Will the Chitauri invade Earth again and use it as a tactical base to continue waging their war against the Kree? There is no extra narrative in Guardians to say what Thanos plans are. Audiences are not reminded of his last appearance in The Avengers where The Other said, “Humans … They are not the cowering wretches that we were promised. They stand … They are unruly and therefore cannot be ruled. To challenge them is to court death.”
Thanos can only grin. Comic book readers know Death is who he wishes to meet. This character is going to be a key player in the later films that are still in development, Guardians of the Galaxy has not filled in any gaps or offered any more tantalizing hints. For the time being, this plot hole is growing to supermassive proportions, and to know the details will require defining what makes this particular galaxy in this Universe go spinning round and round. It’s certainly not a black hole.
Instead, all this film offers is an origin story to show how Quill managed to hook up with a motley crew of bounty hunters, mercenaries and killers to form the Guardians of the Galaxy. When Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel), Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) initially show that they have no love for one another, to see how they learn how to get along is at the heart of the film. Director James Gunn did a fantastic job in crafting a character-driven film that shows them developing a camaraderie. When he crafted the screenplay with Nicole Perlman to flesh out their backgrounds, these characters are hardly single-minded in what motivates them. Quill is the most complex of them all with him holding on to a cassette tape for 23 long years (just how does it survive the ravages of constant replay for that long anyways?) since it reminds him of his life on Earth. Rocket had his body ripped apart and put back together multiple times to give him an attitude and Groot is … Groot.
But for Gamora, she is driven by sibling rivalry. Nebula (Karen Gillan) could have benefited from more screen time to show what kind of feelings she had for her step-sister. Her importance is severely toned down. Even Drax’s thirst for revenge against Thanos is the only thing that keeps him going. To see these two work for a greater good forces them to evaluate what kind of purpose their lives should strive towards. More could have been done to bring out these character’s emotions, but when a lot of story is probably edited out, including the feelings that Quill has for Gamora, the 122 minute run time feels too short. This movie can benefit with at least 15 more minutes of story development.
Perhaps under pressure by Marvel execs, Gunn had to also show off an entire universe for future films to reference to than to examine some of this galaxy’s occupants. A bit of this cosmic scope was teased with the Thor and Avengers films, but to understand it really required this movie to be developed next. In what this director made, it has the feel of the pulps and a counter-culture product. The galaxy’s greatest avengers are misfits.
Until the Nova Corps gets their own movie or an Earth boy gets appointed the mantle, this team of anti-heroes may well be the only saviors for a crime ridden universe. If there was an Earth analogy, perhaps what they have to tame is the wild frontier known as deep space. To see them laying down the law like marshalls is probably what Peter Quill did not sign up for when he got abducted.
4 Stars out of 5